What Apple got right and wrong in 2015

Apple generated record sales for multiple products in 2015. But one possible disappointment lurks in the shadows.

Apple's new MacBook laptops helped drive record Mac sales in 2015.
Image: Apple

Apple got most everything right in 2015. Critics are hard-pressed to argue otherwise, especially considering the preponderance of evidence.

First, fiscal 2015 proved Apple's most successful year ever. The publicly traded company grew revenue 28% to close to $234 billion.

Second, the company's new MacBook line helped drive record Mac sales all year, as did refreshed and improved MacBook Pros and iMacs.

Third, Apple generated consistently strong App Store sales.

The numbers don't lie: Apple's quarterly results

Apple generated record first quarter results, including all-time first-quarter records for iPhone and Mac sales. The company's App Store also enjoyed record sales. The firm reported selling 74.5 million iPhones, 21.4 million iPads, and 5.5 million Macs in the quarter.

In the second quarter, Apple again generated record revenue. In addition to posting all-time record App Store sales, the company posted record quarterly sales for iPhones and Macs. Apple reported selling 61.1 million iPhones, 12.6 million iPads, and 4.5 million Macs during the period.

The third quarter brought more of the same, with record third quarter iPhone and Mac sales and another all-time services record driven by the App Store. That's three quarters of record quarterly sales in a row, if you're keeping score at home. During the third quarter, Apple reported selling 47.5 million iPhones, 10.9 million iPads, and 4.7 million Macs.

The trend continued in Apple's record fourth quarter. The firm again posted record quarterly iPhone sales and an all-time quarterly sales record for Macs. Record iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus sales reported in September, meanwhile, contributed to the sustained success. Apple reported selling 48 million iPhones, 9.8 million iPads, and 5.7 million Macs.

So it's clear Apple's enjoying sustained sales and revenue success with its App Store, iPhones, and Macs. But what about its much heralded Watch? The story, there, doesn't appear quite so rosy.

One product's sales may signify a challenging 2016 for Apple

Apple's unaudited summary quarterly sales data sheets break out separate line item reporting for iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Services (such as revenue generated from iTunes, AppleCare, Apple Pay, licensing, and similar services). However, the company lumps iPod, Apple TV, Beats Electronics, and Apple-branded and third-party accessory sales in with Apple Watch sales that are reported together on a single line as Other Products.

Apple calls its Watch launch "successful," and credits the watch with helping to fuel sales growth. The company seems to be purposefully avoiding releasing unit sales data, leading to speculation that sales aren't living up to initial hopes. Certainly, refusing to release specific Watch sales figures leads to such speculation and even articles stating "Apple doesn't want you to know how many Watches it sold."

While that's likely little to worry about considering the success Apple generated with its App Store, iPhones, and Macs in 2015, the Watch was the organization's first significant new product launch under the leadership of CEO Tim Cook. Potential lackluster Watch sales might signify that more challenging times are ahead for the company in 2016.

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